Sunday, October 25, 2009

Young Writers

This past Friday evening the annual "Power of the Pen" Awards for young writers were held again; again, I had had the honour of judging the poetry submitted by seventeen year olds. Much of the event was the same, but let me dwell on a few things that were different.

Previously I mentioned that I had greater difficulty choosing the top two (and their order) than in years before. Speaking to other judges, I found that I was not alone. Therefore, I think it fair to say that the overall quality of writing entered was better than before. I didn't feel so awkward about suddenly giving out honourable mentions.

The overall awards given out by the Hamilton Association for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art, which seem usually to go to older and more mature writers went to relatively young writers this year. The short fiction award went to a fifteen year old; the poetry award went to a thirteen year old. After reading the award winning entries, I concurred with the judges. Just as an aside, the second place overall for poetry was the one I had selected for second prize in my age category.

That brings me to the one disheartening part I feel I must mention. When I opened the book of winning stories and poems, I didn't recognize at first the poem I had selected as first in its category. Why did I choose this one over the #2 which seemed so much more direct and poetic? Then, nosing around in the presentation envelope I saw a copy of the original work. Part of it (a part just as important as the rhythm and the images used) was the placement of words and phrases on the page. In the publication all that was lost, all the intricate possible relations between words and images, simply by centering each line. I hope the prize satisfied the author; the layout of its publication certainly dismayed me.

Anyway, enough vexation to make me want to stop judging if I can't control the quality of final publication. But then, would someone else have seen the significance of the layout, and rewarded it? That's enough to keep me in the game. I would have liked to congratulate the young poet in person, but that didn't happen. And so it goes.

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